NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – With all signs pointing to a second presidential campaign by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 80 percent of New Jersey voters say Americans are ready for a woman in the Oval Office, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Just 16 percent think the country is not yet ready for such a groundbreaking event.
Further, half of Garden State voters hope to see a woman become president in their lifetime, although the other half says it does not matter to them personally.
For many, hope for a woman president is apparently related to being “ready for Hillary.” A large majority of New Jersey voters has a positive view of Clinton and her potential, with 63 percent saying she would make a good president overall. Respondents are very upbeat about Clinton: 70 percent say she has the right “look” to be president, 74 percent say she has the right “demeanor and personality,” and 83 percent say she has the right amount of “experience” when considered against other potential Democratic contenders.“During Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for president, there was a great deal of talk about how voters would respond to her gender,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University. “In January 2008, a CNN poll found Americans more ‘ready’ for a black president than a woman. Fast forward seven years and New Jerseyans, at least, have little doubt that the country is now ready for a woman president.”
Clinton continues to command high favorability ratings here. Her 59 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable rating puts her well ahead of any other figures the poll tested, including President Obama (53 percent favorable to 38 percent unfavorable). One result of her strong showing is that she easily crushes potential 2016 Republican opponents in New Jersey head-to-head matchups. She tops Gov. Chris Christie, 58 percent to 35 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 58 percent to 32 percent; and Wisc. Gov. Schott Walker, 60 percent to 29 percent.
Results are from a statewide poll of 813 residents contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Feb. 3-10, 2015, including 694 registered voters reported on in this release. The registered voter sample has a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.
Partisanship, gender and a woman president
Democrats (85 percent) and independent voters (83 percent) overwhelmingly believe the nation is ready for a woman president. Republicans are less certain, with 67 percent agreeing and 31 percent disagreeing. Partisanship plays an even stronger role when it comes to personal hopes regarding a woman in the Oval Office. Two-thirds of Democrats want to see a woman in the White House in their lifetime, but 70 percent of Republicans say such an historic event does not matter to them. Independents are split – 47 percent hope for a woman president, while 53 percent say it does not matter.
“Of course, asking about the potential for a woman president brings only one candidate easily to mind for most – Hillary Clinton,” noted Redlawsk. “Voters are influenced by who they can imagine in the White House, so Republicans are dramatically less likely to want it to happen any time soon. Given a strong female Republican candidate, we would no doubt see a significant shift among GOP supporters.”
Men and women also differ in their expectations about a future woman president. Men are more likely to say the U.S. is ready to elect one, 84 percent to 77 percent. Women are 16 points more likely to personally hope to see a woman elected in their lifetime, 58 percent to 42 percent.
Given Clinton’s prominence, the desire to see a woman president is especially driven by Democratic women voters. More than 70 percent want to see a woman elected in their lifetime, compared to just over 50 percent of Democratic men. There is no gender gap among Republicans: about 30 percent of each gender personally hopes to see a woman elected during their lifetime.
But regardless of party, women are less likely to think the country is ready for one of their own as president, with the same gap between men and women evident for Republicans, Democrats and independents.
“Women are more likely to see gender discrimination, which probably makes them more cautious about the prospects for a woman president, said Redlawsk. “On the other hand, Democratic women in particular want to see their gender finally represented in the White House, something that doesn’t resonate the same way with men of any partisan stripe. These patterns track with national averages.”
Clinton’s presidential prospects high among voter base
Even as an unannounced candidate, Clinton has most New Jersey voters believing in her capabilities, especially voters most likely to be among her base. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents agree Clinton would make a good president overall. Only 27 percent of Republicans feel the same. Women are more likely to agree than men (66 percent versus 59 percent). Nonwhite voters and those under 65 years old are more likely as well.
As for particular presidential qualities, Clinton does well even with Republicans, half of whom agree that she has the right “look” to be president; 86 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents say the same. As for her presidential “demeanor and personality,” 92 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans agree with the statement. Additionally, 95 percent of Democrats, 83 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans concur that Clinton has the right “experience” to be president.
Men and women share similar views on these questions. Nonwhite and younger to middle-age voters resemble Democrats in their assessments. Even a fair share of those unfavorable toward Clinton herself say she has the right look (42 percent), demeanor (35 percent) and especially experience (61 percent) – though only 16 percent of this group say she would make a good president.
“While they are not particularly interested in her becoming president, even Republicans see Hillary Clinton as experienced and of presidential character compared to other unnamed Democratic candidates,” said Redlawsk. “More importantly, she does well on these characteristics among independents, crucial to any general election.”
Top GOP candidates no match in New Jersey
Clinton’s favorability rating has remained well above 50 percent throughout the past year, after an initial slip from 65 percent in January 2014. Democrats are overwhelmingly favorable toward Clinton, at 88 percent. More than over half of independents agree, but just over one in five Republicans feels the same.
Women are 11 points more likely to have a favorable impression of her than men (64 percent to 53 percent). Nonwhite voters are much more likely than white voters to feel favorably toward Clinton – 79 percent versus 50 percent.
Tested head-to-head with Christie, Bush or Walker, Clinton maintains large leads across a wide range of New Jersey voters. Christie does slightly better than Bush and Walker but still loses to Clinton by wide margins among most groups, except Republicans and conservatives. Walker does the worst of all three GOP governors among independents and Republicans when pitted against Clinton. Bush sees the largest gender gap in his matchup.
Those who say Clinton has the right look, demeanor, and experience, and would make a good president overall, are much more likely to say they would vote for her in each matchup. Just under two-thirds of those who think the U.S. is ready for a woman president prefer Clinton in all matchups, as do about three-quarters of those who hope to see a woman president in their lifetime.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ATTENTION POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS, Poll Director David Redlawsk may be contacted at 319-400-1134 (cell), 848-932-8504 (office), or firstname.lastname@example.org until 11 p.m. Poll manager Ashley Koning may be contacted at 908-872-1186 or email@example.com. Visit our blog at http://eagletonpollblog.wordpress.com for additional commentary. Follow the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RutgersEagletonPoll and Twitter @EagletonPoll.